The ideal tour of Alaska is at least 14 days: one week cruising the Inside Passage and the other week+ exploring the land. If you’re like me and don’t have that much time to dedicate toward one trip, break it in two.
In this article I’ve provided my best advice for a one week land tour of Alaska. There is a lot of land to cover, so a rental car or Turo car with an allowance of at least 1,000 miles is a necessity. (I found Turo to be a much more affordable option.) The roads are perfectly drivable and time goes quickly because there is so much to look at. While driving, just make sure to watch out for wildlife, and if there are more than a couple of cars behind you, be considerate and pull over so they can pass.
This itinerary might seem tightly packed, but it’s totally do-able thanks to the midnight sun. During the summer Alaska experiences anywhere from 16 to 24 hours of sunlight per day, depending on the location. Alaskan’s are known to take full advantage of the sunlight because they receive so little of it during the winter months. It’s a tradition for many natives to take a hike or even go to a baseball game at 12:00am under the light of the midnight sun!
Day 1: Explore Anchorage
Alaska Public Lands Information Center – This isn’t your typical visitor’s center. First, it’s staffed with National Park Rangers who are very excited to share their love of Alaska with you in addition to answering any questions you might have. And second, it features interesting movies shown in an actual theater featuring subjects like the Gold Rush, the history of the Alaska Railroad, and the 1964 Earthquake. The center is adjacent to the Log Cabin Visitor’s Center and in a federal building, so you’ll have to go through a metal detector to enter.
Anchorage Market and Festival – This festival occurs every weekend from mid-May to mid-September. It’s on 3rd Avenue between C and E Streets and is open from 10am-6pm on Saturdays and 10am-5pm on Sundays. There’s plenty of food trucks and live music along with over 300 vendors selling everything from home grown produce to local crafts like gold nugget jewelry, real antler carvings, and leather goods. This festival is definitely worth a visit for the unique crafts, and as an extra bonus, on a clear day the peak of Mount Denali can be seen from the back of the market.
Tony Knowles Coastal Trail – This 11 mile paved trail winds its way along the coast of downtown Anchorage and ends at Kincaid Park. It’s a great place to walk, bike, or run, but keep in mind that access to the trail is limited, so if you plan on going for a short walk, the nearest exit might be behind you. Take in beautiful views of Cook Inlet, the Chugach Mountains, Fire Island, and Mount Denali (on a clear day) along this peaceful path.
Day 2: Travel to Denali
Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Museum – The town of Wasilla is not only home to the famous politician Sarah Palin but also to the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Museum. This museum is dedicated to the grueling sled dog race that challenges dozens of mushers and hundreds of eager dogs to travel 1,000 miles through the frozen tundra of Alaska. Watch the interesting video about the race, view trophies from past races, and possibly even get mushed by a team of dogs.
Hike in Denali National Park – Upon arrival to one of America’s greatest National Parks, I highly encourage you to stop in the visitor center. The center has some interesting exhibits and the park rangers can answer any questions you have as well as recommend trails based on your desired difficulty, distance, and scenery preferences. There are also ranger-led programs and sled dog kennels to visit if you’re not up to hiking.
Day 3: Denali National Park
Denali National Park Tour – Dedicate at least an entire day to exploring this magnificent 6 million acre park if you can. I took an all-day tour that journeyed to the end of the Denali National Park road, which is 92.5 miles long. The only way to venture more than 15 miles into the park is by shuttle or tour bus, so you’ll definitely need to book one of these modes of transportation to get deeper into the park.
The tours are pricey, but definitely take one if you can. They provide excellent narration throughout the drive, will stop for unlimited amounts of time in order to watch the wildlife, and some include lunch as well as a ranger-led hike. The wildlife sightings are not guaranteed, but I found them plentiful because our tour went further into the park than any of the others.
Day 4: Travel to Seward
Turnagain Arm – The Turnagain Arm is just a few miles south of Anchorage and is full of stunning coastal scenery. There are multiple places to stop off and look for whales, watch the Bore Tide, and admire the view. Take the opportunity to stop, stretch your legs, and eat a picnic lunch.
Seavey’s Ididaride Dog Sled Tour – Learn all about the incredible Iditarod race, try on some authentic Iditarod gear, snuggle some puppies, and get mushed by a team of dogs! There’s so much excitement when embarking on Seavey’s Ididaride tour. This excursion was one of my favorite Alaskan experiences because it’s so interactive and informative. Our tour guide let us ask as many questions as we wanted, let us take tons of photos, and even took some great photos of us.
Exit Glacier – Exit Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in Alaska because you can drive to within a half mile of the Glacier View area. This first viewing area is even wheel chair accessible from a 0.5 mile paved loop. There are also more difficult paths that lead to more spectacular views. I highly recommend hiking to the Edge of the Glacier to see the vivid blue ice up close and hear the cracking of the glacier.
Day 5: Seward
Kenai Fjords Cruise – Get a taste of an Alaskan cruise by taking a boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park. Get up close and personal with glaciers, waterfalls, and wildlife such as sea otters, whales, sea lions, harbor seals, bald eagles, and puffins. We saw all this and more on our cruise, so it’s not something to be missed. Bring your camera, rain gear, binoculars, and motion sickness medication because the water is pretty choppy.
Alaska Sealife Center – The Alaska Sealife Center sits in the heart of downtown Seward and is dedicated to the research and rehabilitation of Alaska’s sea life. They have multiple educational exhibits, but the highlights are the Seabird Aviary where 10 different seabird species dwell in their life-like habitat, the Harbor Seal and Stellar Sea Lion habitats where you can see these amazing animals up close, and the Touch Tank where you can touch sea creatures like anemones, sea cucumbers, and sea stars. They even offer personal encounters with their Harbor Seals, puffins, and giant pacific octopus for additional fees.
Day 6: Travel to Anchorage
Half day fishing – There are plenty of opportunities to fish near Seward. Even if you’re not excited about fishing, please, do not deny yourself this experience. Alaska has some of the best fishing in the country and you will definitely not regret it. We went fishing on the Cooper River in a small boat tour with room for only four people plus the guide. Literally every time we cast our lines, one of us caught something. It was action packed and so much fun that I would not hesitate to do it over and over again.
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center – About mid-way between Anchorage and Seward is Alaska’s Wildlife Conservation Center. Their mission is to conserve Alaska’s wildlife, and I thought it was the best place to see Alaska’s wildlife up close. They have amazing enclosures for their bears, caribou, moose, muskox, bison, porcupine, and other residents that create a sense of wilderness living.
Alyeska Resort Tram – If you’re passing by Girdwood (just outside Anchorage) and have some extra time, ride the Alyeska Resort Tram. The tram takes you to the summit of Mount Alyeska at an elevation of 2,300 feet. You’ll be afforded a 360 degree view, and on a clear day you can see the Turnagain Arm, Chugach Mountains, and many glaciers.
Day 7: Final day in Anchorage
Anchorage Museum – This museum is a gem located in downtown Anchorage. It is dedicated to Alaskan heritage, and has three floors of exhibits to explore. For those who love historical artifacts, the Alaska Native Cultures exhibit is phenomenal. It showcases hundreds of Alaskan artifacts from all of the native villages throughout their history. The museum also houses numerous temporary exhibits as well as plenty of kid and adult friendly exhibits like the Imaginarium Discovery Center and Spark!Lab, which have many hands-on displays to play and experiment with.
Alaska Native Heritage Center – History will come to life at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Inside the center, take in a movie about Alaskan life, watch a live demonstration of dancing, storytelling, or games, or visit the Hall of Cultures, which is full of interesting information and artifacts from the major cultural groups found in Alaska. Outside, walk through six realistic homes built to model the habitats of these cultural groups. There are guided tours of the village or you can lead your own tour with the help of the free ANHC app.
Hike Flattop Mountain – If you have energy to spare and are up for a physical challenge, head to Flattop Mountain. This trail is 2.8 miles, gains about 1,300 feet in elevation, and requires some rock scrambling near the top. On a clear day you will be delighted with spectacular views from the summit as well as a great sense of accomplishment.
Many of the above attractions offer coupons or discounts for active military or AAA members, and coupons can be found in the Alaska Tour Saver or Northern Lights Coupon books. These coupon books are not free, but can quickly make up for the cost with the savings they provide. Both books offer previews to their coupons online, so it’s worthwhile to add up the coupons you anticipate using to ensure overall savings before purchasing these books.
Alaska is a place like nowhere I’ve ever been. It has much to offer, so make sure to check out my other Alaska articles to find out everything I loved about it. In all, it was an amazing place to explore and I’ll consider myself extremely lucky if I get to visit again. I sincerely hope you’ll get to enjoy it for yourself one day as well.
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